Whether you’re a serious shopper, a tag-along partner or a fan of all things eclectic, you’re bound to find something to like on Hazenstraat, dubbed Amsterdam’s Tiende Straatje (Tenth Street) by shopkeepers eager to extend the adjacent Nine Streets shoppers’ paradise to include one more straat. On this cobbled lane in Amsterdam’s trendy Jordaan, even casual browsers should enjoy visiting the specialty stores, sidewalk cafés, designer boutiques and artist studios in this retail mecca beyond crowded Leidsestraat, commercial Kalverstraat, snooty P.C. Hoofstraat and the popular Negen Straatjes (literally, Nine Little Streets).
Let’s begin at an historic corner—Hazenstraat and Lauriergracht, where French urban artist Invader installed one of 26 mini-mosaics in Amsterdam in the summer of 2000. Inspired by characters in Space Invaders and other video games from the ’80s, the pixelated aliens are constructed of small, glossy tiles. This one is slightly damaged but still sports four bright colors. It’s among 11 surviving pieces in Amsterdam of the most recognizable street art of the last decade. More can be uncovered in 42 other major cities worldwide.
Just opposite is The English Bookshop, as much a literary gathering spot as a place to buy books and DVDs made from them. “Hi, Melissa,” owner Leisl Oliver greets me in her crisp South African accent as I amble up stairs lined with English-language magazines. She asks about my recent couchsurfing guests (she’s met several), then helps me pick out a present for friends’ daughters. We select a sticker book that should help them with English—an early skill for Dutch children. I get updates about upcoming writers groups and author talks at the shop, plus info about Wednesday morning playgroups for my friends.
The new Literary and Cultural Walking Tours are going well, Leisl says. My excursion last summer took me well beyond the now bohemian-chic Jordaan, an impoverished neighborhood in the 17th century when it was home to a hard-up Rembrandt and dramatist Joost van den Vondel, namesake of Vondelpark. By the 19th century, it had deteriorated into a slum but was revived by a city-initiated renaissance in the 1970s. A community of bohemian types attracted by low rents grew up, giving the neighborhood an artsy-cool vibe that remains today even as rents have skyrocketed. Adult tickets for the two-hour tours, which depart from the shop on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 10:30, are €18.50.
I fortify myself with a scone and cup of chamomile at the bookshop before crossing over to fashion-forward Petsalon, a welcoming little hat shop seemingly from an earlier age that’s been a Jordaan fixture for a quarter-century. In an adjacent workshop, Ans Wesseling’s milleners handcraft each season’s collection of hats, bags and money pouches from richly hued wool, linen, leather and silk. I try on a jaunty, brimmed number that’s stylish and functional—warm in winter and cool in summer. But I’m not willing to part with €125, even for a custom-fitted cap, so I move on.
Like Petsalon, Brown Clothes boasts an in-store workshop where Kings Road-inspired couture is crafted. High fashion nods to the Brits here in the ultra-feminine designs of Melanie Brown, winner of the 2002 Fans Molenaar Haute Couture Prize. Down the street, a clothes rack outside ‘t Haasje seduces me into yet another source for contemporary women’s fashion and accessories. With brands like Chili Pepper, Studio Z and Rimini, this one has attracted fashionistas for more than 30 years.
I spot the colorful bakfiets of artist Joep Buijs outside his gallery and admire bold works-in-progress in the window. Brilliantly colored dogs, his daughter Lente and an assortment of happy women gaze back at me. Like an interactive theater, they invite connection with the artist, which Joep encourages with his open-door policy. But he’s not around today, so I backtrack to Olivaria, the oldest olive specialty shop in the Netherlands. Inside, delicacies from Greece, Spain, Portugal, France and Italy rise like a translucent cathedral around owner Ico van Buuren. Since 1995, the Dutchman has presided over an edible realm that now features more than 50 varieties of olive oil, plus imported vinegar, mustard, cheese, sausage, pasta, olives and other Mediterranean delights.
A tasting table tempts me so I lift a chunk of bread, dip it into a golden oil from Spain and savor a nutty, fruity flavor like nothing I’ve experienced in grocery store brands. Like all premium oils in the shop, this one comes from a small cultivator Ico has met on his travels, which take him to harvests throughout Europe. At €10, it’s not much more than what I’d pay at a supermarket. But I opt to spend €16 on a bottle of Limoncello for some later indulgence.
It’s time for a break and there’s no better place to take one than Coffeeshop Biba, a back-to-the-60s-style oasis popular with local musicians and residents that’s grown up with the flower children. Over a smoke and latté, I admire the recent facelift and watch Lady Gaga gyrate on a big screen while another customer stalks aliens on the pinball machine. An LP-style clock tells me it’s getting late, so I purchase a bag of “heavy mix,” five grams of weed shake, for an affordable €20 and move on.
There’s an entertainment schedule posted outside Chet’s Jazz Café, known for modern and experimental jazz and Italian-inspired wines and tapas. I check it out, then succumb to the munchies at Chocolátl, the two-year-old “child” of Erik and Leslie Spande, formerly of Portland, OR. The idea for their chocoholic’s Nirvana came to the couple after they attended a chocolate fest in Ashland, OR in 2003. Through its seven-year “gestation,” Erik worked as a chef/caterer and buyer of specialty foods and beverages while Leslie pursued a career in product development.
In 2010, Chocolátl was born—a chocolate boutique featuring artisanal cocoa confections crafted in small batches using only the finest ingredients. On a previous visit, Erik regaled me about the taste and textural differences of cacao beans from African, South American and European countries. On this one, I learn the distinction between chocolate makers and more rarefied chocolatiers from Leslie.
“A chocolate maker is a mainstream company that mass produces its product,” she explains. Being American, visions of Hershey’s and See’s dance in my head. “A chocolatier oversees everything from bean selection to chocolate production and the addition of cream, berries, nuts, spices or other ingredients”―essentially a bean-to-bar artisan, like a winemaker who grows his own grapes.
With a bit of a buzz, I duck into Cats ‘n Things to indulge my fondness for all things feline. Cicero, the giant Birman who reigns over the place, sleeps in a kitty couch in the window. Gracia and Sharon, two other fluffy Birmans who preside over Ina van Berkum’s boutique, are upstairs in her apartment. The passionate cat lover, judge and former breeder stocks a quirky selection of cat art by Dutch artists, feline-inspired accessories and quality products for fussy felines and their doting owners.
It’s 17:00, time for Happy Hour at Saarein. Opened in 1978 as a place for all “queer minded people,” the three-level bruine kroegen (brown cafe) welcomes all with an ever-changing tapas menu, well-stocked bar, beer on tap and windows overlooking the passing crowd. The place jumps on Friday nights, when Pink Radio broadcasts from the basement. I grab a stool, sip on a Jaegermeister and watch a gaggle of girls play pool.
Near the end of Hazenstraat, La Festa Bed & Breakfast, a small establishment designed by a Dutch architect, offers accommodations. While it looks more like a pizzeria than a hostelry, two stylish upstairs rooms are available at competitive rates. The street-level restaurant serves pizza, pastas and other Italian specialties. For more upscale dining, neighboring ‘t Stuivertje serves a continental menu starring such Dutch favorites as tongue-fish, chicken livers and spare ribs. Most éntrées are under €20 at the homey bistro, which seats about 40.
Flamework, relocated from the popular Nine Streets in 2011, is the final treasure on Hazenstraat before it ends at Elansgracht. Opposite BBB, my Pilates studio, Daniela Malaica’s glass jewelry shop features a stunning array of vibrant necklaces and other contemporary accessories inspired by her African-Italian roots. After admiring her gems, I retrace my steps through the Jordaan, window shopping on Hazenstraat in the opposite direction. Even if it’s beyond the popular Nine Streets, Amsterdam’s Tiende Straatje will always be a ten in my book.